A total of 31 young service technicians have formally graduated from the latest John Deere Ag Tech and Turf Tech advanced apprenticeship programmes, which are run in partnership with national training provider ProVQ at the purpose-built John Deere Apprentice Training Centre in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire.

Apprentice of the Year for 2018 was Henry Smith of Cornthwaite Agricultural Ltd in Ormskirk, who received a crystal plaque, winner’s certificate and a John Deere tool kit worth £500. The runners-up were Martyn Burnett of HRN Tractors Ltd, Insch and William Storr of Rea Valley Tractors, Sudbury, who each received a certificate and high street vouchers worth £250.

The annual apprentice graduation ceremony was held at the East Midlands Conference Centre on the University of Nottingham campus for the first time, with the students’ parents and dealer representatives also invited to celebrate the occasion. John Deere Limited managing director Jonathan Henry presented the apprentices with their graduation certificates, while after-dinner guest speaker and TV presenter Guy Martin, together with ProVQ chairman Julian Lloyd, handed over the three apprentice of the year awards.

These awards are based on the trainees’ consistently high standards of work, both at their dealerships and at the training centre, over the three years of the apprenticeship. In addition, all central government approved apprenticeships in England now require an end-point assessment, over and above the log of work progress that was kept for each apprentice before last year. The majority of the 2018 graduates were therefore the first John Deere technicians to qualify under the new EPA rules.

“With the new EPA tests, which were held at Langar in April, both John Deere and our dealers are now able to quantify more effectively the skills of the apprentices we are training,” says John Deere Limited training centre manager Allan Cochran. “An EPA pass mark of above 90 per cent was required to earn a distinction and well over half the apprentices we tested achieved this, which was well above our initial expectations, so we have got off to a great start with these new assessments.”

John Deere’s three-year Ag Tech and Turf Tech and two-year Parts Tech apprenticeships involve students being trained in engineering, electronics, hydraulics, diagnostics, communication skills, computing, sales and marketing. The programmes lead to IMI Level 2 & 3 Diplomas in Landbased Engineering and Vehicle Parts Competence, and registration at LTA Intermediatelevel in the industry’s Landbased Training Accreditation scheme.

In subsequent years qualified technicians undergo further education and adult training within the John Deere University programme, on a career path that can ultimately lead to the highest possible LTA Master Technician accreditation.

New student intakes are in September each year; apprentices need to be resident in the UK, sponsored by a John Deere dealer and aged 16 or over. The standard programmes include on-the-job training and assessment as well as eight weeks each year at the John Deere Apprentice Training Centre. Further details can be found at http://apprenticeshipfinder.co.uk/john-deere.

Now in its 27th year, Ag Tech was the first such scheme to be introduced in the UK and won a National Training Award at the end of 1997, the only one ever made to an agricultural machinery apprenticeship programme. Since the first programme started in 1992, over 750 apprentices have graduated through the three main schemes and are now working in the company’s nationwide dealer network.